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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - November 12, 2001: HIV in Asia - 2001-11-09

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Health ministers from almost all Asian and Pacific countries have promised to provide more resources to fight AIDS and H-I-V, the virus that causes the disease. They made the announcement last month at an international conference on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. Health officials, activists, and doctors from the area met in Melbourne, Australia.

Currently, an estimated seven-and-one-half million people are infected with H-I-V in Asia and the Pacific. However, an international group that studies AIDS in Asia says this is changing. The group says AIDS and H-I-V rates in Asia are increasing faster than anywhere else in the world.

The group reports that only three countries have national infection rates of more than one percent. They are Burma, Thailand and Cambodia. However, other countries have extremely high rates of infection among some population groups and it some areas. These countries include India, China and Indonesia.

Karen Stanecki heads the group that is studying AIDS in Asia. She says that it is only a question of time before infection rates in Asia increase. Mizz Stanecki says Africa is an example. She says there was little evidence of H-I-V infections in southern Africa in the early Nineteen-Nineties. Today, however, some African countries have infection rates of ten to fifteen percent of their populations.

Bernard Schwartlander works for the United Nations AIDS Program. Doctor Schwartlander says some groups in Asia are already at high risk of becoming infected. They include people who sell sex for money, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs. The rate of H-I-V infections has increased among these groups in countries including China, Vietnam and Nepal.

Doctor Schwartlander says the spread of H-I-V probably will not remain limited only to these groups. He says evidence from other countries shows that H-I-V has spread from high-risk groups to other members of the population. Doctor Schwartlander says Asian governments must take immediate action to keep H-I-V rates low. Experts say only Thailand and Cambodia have effective H-I-V prevention programs.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.